Titanic is nearly completely filled out with just a few things left before her upcoming sea trials. The ship is nearly identical to Olympic, but some changes were made so it was exteriorly different. It had a steel screen with sliding windows on the forward half of the A Deck promenade. This was done at the personal request of Bruce Ismay to provide additional shelter for First Class passengers. B Deck saw changes as well. The promenade space was converted into additional First Class cabins, which included two parkour suites with their own promenade spaces. The À la Carte restaurant was made bigger and the Café Parisien was added as well (it was not on the Olympic). The additional fitting out delayed Titanic and was delayed further by additional work needed on Olympic from a 1911 collision.
[Updated with more information and edited both Why this is Important and Aftermath with more information. Add source list to include Wikipedia and photo of procession]
At approximately 4:40p.m. Eastern Time on 25 March 1911, a fire would break out in the Asch Building in the Greenwich Village of Manhattan in New York City that was one of the deadliest industrial disasters in U.S. history. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, located on the 8th, 9th, 10th floors, was where the fire took place and was caused when fire broke out in a rag bin on the 8th floor. It was a Saturday afternoon with 600 workers, many of whom were recent Italian and Jewish immigrant women and girls aged between 14-23 years of age. The workday was coming to an end when the fire flared up, likely by a unextinguished cigarette or match, in the scrap rag bin that had at least two months of cuttings in it at the time of the fire. A passerby on Washington Street saw the smoke and reported it.
The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory was a sweatshop with cramped spaces and work areas for the employees. When the flames were noticed, people started screaming and hollering. Cramped spaces made it hard to escape quickly and the supposed buckets of water, a standard of the time, were empty many would report later. Many jumped on the machine tables hoping they could hop from table to table to get to the elevators, Narrow aisles with chairs and baskets made that hard. And then the fire start consuming them. The manager did try to use the fire hose on the fire but the hose was rotted and the valve rusted shut.
Panicked workers ran to any exit they could find. There were four elevators but only one was operational; it could only hold twelve people at a time and broke down on the fourth trip due to heat from the fire.. Women began jumping down the shaft to escape the flames. Many would die as a result. There were two stairways but one was locked from the outside to prevent theft trapping the women who burned alive at the door. The other was impassable due to flames. Dozens took stairs to the roof and escaped the flames. The exterior fire escape, shoddy and poorly constructed, became unsafe with so many people trying to use it and collapsed sending 20 people to their death below. Those trapped above the fire escape succumbed to either smoke inhalation or were burned to death.
A crowd had gathered outside watching events unfold. Sadly many of those trapped decided, in groups of two or threes,to jump from the windows. The fire ladders only could reach up to the 7th floor and their safety nets were not strong enough to catch them. To the horror of those watching, 62 people leaped to their deaths causing many in the crowd to weep, faint, or cry hysterically.William Gunn Shepard, a reporter on the scene during the fire, said he heard a sound more horrible than can be described: the thud of a body hitting the stone sidewalk. A similar description would be made many years later when people, trapped in the Twin Towers on 9/11, choose to jump out of the windows. It was captured on film but those who heard the thuds said nearly the same thing as Shepard.
The fire was put out in a half hour and then the shocking number of deaths would be known: 146.123 women and 23 men perished. The youngest victims were two girls aged 14 and the oldest was a women who was 43. Many bodies were found all stacked up against a locked door. As reports of the fire and deaths spread in New York and across the nation, it caused outrage at the conditions the workers had to work in. The owners of the company, Max Blanck and Isaac Harris, faced a backlash in the community. Demonstrations outside the building the next day showed the how many were outraged. A memorial procession on April 5, 1911 was attended by over 60,000 people who stood in the rain to see it.
Why this is Important
This fire shocked not only New York but the entire nation. New York created a commission to investigate and recommend laws to make workplaces safer for workers. The International Ladies Garment Workers Union would galvanize and agitate for better conditions, pay, and safety for the workers. It would spark other reformers to seek more comprehensive changes to labor laws, safety, and workers compensation. Changes in other states and at the federal level would occur as well.
Max Blanck and Isaac Harris were put on trial for manslaughter but were acquitted of the charges. While the prosecution showed how locked doors and other thing were an issue, the defense argued that there was no proof the owners knew of the locked doors or authorized them. The were found liable in a civil suit for wrongful death but only paid out $75 per victim to the families despite getting a large insurance payment for the loss. The building still stands today though it has been renamed the Brown Building.
Mussolini Founds Italian Fascist Party (23 Mar 1919)
Germans Massacre Italians (23 Mar 1944)
Mussolini Founds Italian Fascist Party (23 Mar 1919)
Benito Mussolini, publisher of Socialist newspapers and veteran of World War I, founds the Fasci di Combattimento (“Fighting Bands) based on 19th century Italian peasant revolutionaries. In forming this party, more commonly called Fascist Party, Mussolini formally broke away from his Socialist peers creating a movement that fused elements of Socialism and Nationalism into this new movement. Fascism repudiated, as both Communism and Socialism does, democracy and civil liberties with governance done by a single party with a powerful central figure. Fascism rejects the Communist argument against capitalism and instead argues it can be made to serve the nation without taking it away from its owners. Nationalism, also derided by Communists, was elevated, and made an important element to bring people to support the goals of the new order.
Italy was suffering the after effects of World War I. Inflation was high, the morale of the people was low, and the parliamentary democracy that ran Italy seemed weak and ineffectual. Worse despite Italian support for Great Britain and France, they got little from the Treaty of Versailles which made Italians unhappy as well. Mussolini’s Fascist Party stepped in during this time to offer an alternative to the chaos. And it drew many wanting to remake Italy into a more powerful nation. Dressed in black shirts as their uniforms, they began a program of intimidation and terrorism against Communists, Socialists, and those that supported the current system.
In October 1922, Mussolini led a march on Rome which led to King Victor Emmanuel III appointing him as prime minister. He formed a three- member cabinet and presided over the parliamentary government. Using his Black Shirts and others, they quickly came down hard on political opponents and anyone who disobeyed the new orders edicts on how things were to be done. By 1925, the parliamentary government was formally ended with the proclamation of Mussolini as Il Duce (The Leader).
Adolf Hitler admired Mussolini’s rise to power and copied his tactics and beliefs in forming the National Socialism movement in Germany.
“The rights of the State as expressing the real essence of the individual. And if liberty is to he the attribute of living men and not of abstract dummies invented by individualistic liberalism, then Fascism stands for liberty, and for the only liberty worth having, the liberty of the State and of the individual within the State. The Fascist conception of the State is all embracing; outside of it no human or spiritual values can exist, much less have value. Thus understood, Fascism, is totalitarian, and the Fascist State — a synthesis and a unit inclusive of all values — interprets, develops, and potentates the whole life of a people.” Benito Mussolini, The Doctrine of Fascism, 1932
Germans Massacre Italians (23 Mar 1944)
In July 1943 the allies landed in Sicily beginning the Italian campaign. Rome itself was being bombed and Allied troops would likely land in the south and march north once they completed the Sicilian operation. The war had not gone well for the Italian military with more defeats than victories (and often the Germans having to assist them). The rationing of food, higher costs, and people generally upset with how things were being run by Mussolini led to widespread dissatisfaction. Believing the war was no longer in the interests of Italy, in late July Mussolini was rejected by his own Grand Council and arrested. Pietro Badoglio, the new Prime Minister, negotiated in secret with the allies to surrender and its terms. The Germans though were not going to allow the Allies access to Italian airbases or other support facilities. The armistice declared on 8 September by Badoglio resulted in the Germans taking Rome forcing the new government and the king to flee. Rome was occupied from September 1943-June 1944 when the Germans left making it an open city.
During the occupation of Rome, the German’s came down hard on its citizens especially those who had aided in the ouster of Mussolini and anyone who opposed them. It was not a happy time to live in Rome with German troops everywhere along with their vicious elements of the SS operating as well. The Italian partisans, who had been fighting Mussolini, now turned all their efforts on the Germans. They began acts of sabotage, coordinated attacks on Germans, and causing all kinds of mayhem. It led to a 23 March 1994 attack on a SS unit. A bomb was tossed at them killing 33 soldiers. The Germans were outraged, and reprisals were ordered. 335 Italian citizens were rounded up and taken to the Ardeatine caves. They were all shot dead as revenge for the deaths of the SS soldiers. 250 were Catholic, 70 were Jews, and the remaining unknown.
After the killing was done, the cave was sealed. When the Allies liberated Rome on 4 June 1944, the massacre became widely known. It shocked Rome, all of Italy and the world when the details emerged. In the postwar trials that took place, many were held to account for their part in it. Generals von Mackensen and Mälzer were sentenced to death in 1945 by a British military tribunal. Field Marshal Kesselring was sentenced to death in 1947 though pardoned later. Former SS Lieutenant Colonel Herbert Kappler was sentenced to life in prision in 1948 by the Italians. There is also an interesting story of Kappler’s game of wits with Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty, who spearheaded the Vatican’s assistance to allied soldiers who fled to the Vatican for protection against the Germans. He visited Kappler in jail which led to his conversion to Catholicism. In 1997 his wife managed to smuggle the now old and frail Kappler (who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer) to West Germany. Italy wanted him back but West Germany saw no point to it: he was dying from cancer and in fact died a year later from it.
Today is the March/Spring Equinox. This equinox marks the moment where the Sun crosses the equator and usually occurs between March 19-21 every year. Both the March and September equinoxes are when the Sun shines directly on the equator making night and day nearly equal.
The March equinox is the transition from winter to spring in the Northern Hemisphere but the reverse in the Southern Hemisphere (summer into fall). Various cultures celebrate March equinox as a time of rebirth. Many spring festivals are timed to coincide with the equinox and some religious events (Passover and Easter) use specific calculations based on the equinox to help determine the exact day of the event.
Though the equinox marks the changing of the seasons, it is quite common for winter effects to continue in many places far until May or even June.
And if you live in an agricultural area where sheep abound, a sure sign of Spring is that lambs are born. Lots of them. To this day no scientist has ever figured how the mother can instantly know her offspring in a field where so many lambs abound.
One of the deadliest train disasters in railroad history occurred during World War II in Italy when over 500 people would suffocate to death.
It began simply enough. On the evening 2 March 1944 freight train 8017 left Salerno, Italy to a rural area south of the city. This required it to pass through the Galleria delle Amri Tunnel Pass just outside Balvano. Although a freight train, it was common for a lot of civilian and military people to hop on the next convenient train. By the time the train had reached Balvano, the last train stop between the two long tunnels in the Apennines Mountains. it had 650 people aboard. It reached the stop near midnight and had to stop for maintenance.
At ten minutes to 1 am, the train began its ascent into the Galleria delle Amri. The tunnel was poorly ventilated with 1.3% grade. Not long after entering the tunnel the train came to complete stop for 30 minutes. The exact reasons are still unclear. Either the train could not pull the overloaded freight cars, or it was waiting for another train to exit from the opposite direction. Some argue that humidity had caused the train wheels to slip, and sandboxes were not helping.
Unfortunately, due to wartime restrictions, the train was burning low grade coal which produced a lot of excess and odorless carbon monoxide.
The train driver tried to reverse the train but fainted before he could accomplish it. An additional complication was that it was a two-locomotive set up. The driver in lead car could not communicate with the driver in the other one as they were not the same locomotive model. That driver was still trying to push forward. A brakeman walked back to Balvano getting there about 05:10. Quickly a locomotive was dispatched and got there by 0525. It was too late. Many people had exited the freight cars hoping to find better air in the tunnel and died there. There were so any corpses on the rails prevented it from removing the train. About 40 people in the last freight cars were alive. A second rescue mission at 08:40 was able to bring the train back to Balvano. The only train crew to survive was the brakeman and a fireman from the second locomotive.
Due to wartime restrictions, the US and Italians kept it out of the news. A commission was established to determine what happened. Blame was put on the low-quality coal and the station masters tolerating stowaways. The Italian railway company, Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane, declined all responsibility owing to the end of the war setup between the Italians and US. The Ministry of Treasury, in order to quell criticism, issued compensation to identified civilians (but it occurred 15 years later). A limitation on freight tonnage was introduced and the use of both diesel and steam locomotives for such routes were introduced, Steam engines were banned in 1959 and the line was electrified in 1996. Except for the train crew, the stowaways were buried in four common graves in Balvano cemetery.
Laetare Sunday is the fourth Sunday in the Lenten season. Since it is half way through Lent, it is a time to rejoice (Laetare means rejoice) and a time to understand about baptismal rebirth. Priests can elect to wear rose colored vestments on this Sunday. And the Gospel of John account of the blind man being healed is read. The Solemnity of St. Joseph, which is observed on March 19, will be moved to the following day should it be on Laetare Sunday.
On 18 March 1766 the British Parliament repealed the Stamp Act to end a major uproar with the colonists in America.
The controversial act was passed on 22 March 1765 and required that every official document produced in the colonies have a British stamp on it. Official documents included legal documents but was expanded to include newspapers and even playing cards. The purpose of the act was to use the money to raise revenues for a standing army. In reaction to it, the Stamp Act Congress was created in the colonies to oppose it in October 1765. Opposition to the impending Stamp Act caused not only outrage but violence as well. Calls to boycott British goods were made and attacks on customhouses and even homes of tax collectors occurred. Benjamin Franklin made a personal appeal to the House of Commons to repeal the act.
Faced with opposition to the Stamp Act, it was repealed but on the same day Parliament passed the Declaratory Act which stated the government had free and total legislative power over the colonies. This set in motion conflict with the colonists who began to assert they ought to have a voice in laws passed by Parliament. The famous phrase “No Taxation Without Representation” would become an important part of the revolt that was coming.
St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland and known for bringing Christianity to Ireland. He was born in 390 A.D in Britain and raised by a Christian family. However he was not much interested in God and at the time was illiterate. When he was 16, he was kidnapped and taken to Ireland where he was forced to work as a shepherd on a hillside. All alone except for his sheep and captors. he began to cry out to God for rescue him. He had a dream in which God revealed himself and that he would be going home.
Risking his life, he boarded a ship for Britain where he returned to his family. He was welcomed back but realized that he had been transformed by God. He entered a monastery to pursue his calling as a Catholic priest. As a result of his education, he came to understand Holy Scripture and impressed his peers and superiors with his character. He would be made a bishop in due course. Nearly three decades after this slavery in Ireland, he felt a call from God that he had to return to Ireland and spread the word of Jesus to a people who had become lost. This was no easy journey for him since travel was difficult but he faced hostility from those who opposed him trying to convert people away from paganism. Patrick was ready though to face the trials that might take his life (he was attacked and beaten by thugs and Irish royalty disdained him) and persevered in proclaiming the Gospel and training converts.
His courageous leadership and his crisscrossing the countryside paid off as thousands and more would be converted. Churches were being established and he was training those to shepherd the church after he was gone. He would die on March 17, 461 A.D. He has been venerated as a saint and patron saint of Ireland since then by the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican and Lutheran churches. In Ireland it is a solemnity and thus a holy day of obligation. It is also a cultural day as well to celebrate Ireland. Traditionally many in Ireland will wear shamrocks, wear green, attend Mass, watch parades, have a special breakfast and dinner, and of course celebrate by having a beer in their favorite pub (or outside due to the crowds). It has been a public holiday in Ireland since 1903. Since the feast does fall within Lent and is a solemnity in Ireland, it is permissible to eat foods normally excluded during this time (or any food you have selected to give up). However outside of Ireland should the day fall on a Friday, the local bishop will provide guidance. Usually the bishop will give dispensation to allow Catholics to eat meat but usually asks they fast on a day during that week or the following one.
There are a lot of food traditions associated with Saint Patrick’s Day. Many foods though are more inspired than what was traditionally served in Ireland. And some would never be served ever in Ireland, such as green beer. It would be an insult to chemically dye a beer green in a country that loves their beer. So do not make the mistake of asking for green beer should you be in Ireland on Saint Patrick’s Day. They may laugh it off or you may be cut off and forced to stand outside the pub and mocked for your audacity.
One food associated with Ireland is soda bread. This was a common staple (and still is) in Ireland but it was originally a very humble bread free of all the leavenings and additions you see in grocery stores. Since yeast is rather hard to use in the wet climate of Ireland (they had yeast they could use for sourdough and from other sources), baking soda ultimately became important for making the daily bread, It only has five ingredients: flour, buttermilk, salt, sugar, and baking soda. And because you simply made it into ball, no kneading was needed. One very good recipe can be found at Old World Garden Farms which has the traditional recipe and shows how it can be made.
Once you master how to make it, you will see that it is actually a very tasty bread for daily use. And if you like raisins, go for it. I like it either way (plain or with raisins). And the ingredients are very inexpensive, So if you are looking to get in touch with your Irish roots, try making this soda bread. Now Max Miller, who does the excellent Tasting History series over on YouTube, has a video on this very subject.
Here is a brief but very good overview of Saint Patrick done by The History Guy.
A very popular song in Ireland is The Minstrel Boy by Thomas More. One rendition ended up, in all places, in Star Trek:The Next Generation. Chief O’Brien meets with his old commanding officer (Captain Maxwell) to convince him to back down from a confrontation he is sure to lose with with Captain Picard. They reminisce about a fallen comrade who used to sing this song. And O’Brien sings with Maxwell, forcing him to realize he has made a mistake. It is from the season 4 episode The Wounded.
Here is a fuller version done by John McDermott in 2022. It is beautiful and rousing version of this song.
Today is 15 March and on the old Roman calendar was a day of religious observance to the Roman god Jupiter and other lesser deities. But it is most famous as the date in 44 BC when Julius Caesar was assassinated at a meeting of the Roman Senate. 60 conspirators were involved but the leaders were Brutus and Cassius. Caesar was forewarned of his death by a seer according to Plutarch. And in his famous work Julius Caesar, Shakespeare has the soothsayer say “beware the ides of March” which Caesar ignores and of course he ends up stabbed to death uttering the famous line before death:
Et tu Brute!
The assassination was a turning point for Rome. It brought about a civil war and ended the Roman Republic. Octavian (later Augustus) would become emperor and the Roman Empire would come to dominate the entire Mediterranean Sea, North Africa, and parts of Europe and Britain. In Julius Caesar Mark Antony gives perhaps the most remembered funeral oration ever done. Most people recall the famous opening line:
Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears! I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him. The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones; so let it be with Caesar.
The oration is masterful in that it cleverly turns the people against Brutus and Cassius by showing they were ambitious and not Caesar. By the end the plebeians call them traitors and murderers.
In real life, it was much the same. Antony played them by seemingly supporting amnesty but turning people against them both. Brutus was forced to leave and ended up on Crete, Cassius went east to gather support among the governors and to amass an army. Antony and Octavian would clash militarily causing divisions in Rome. This allowed the forces of Brutus and Cassius to march on Rome. However Octavian made peace with Antony upon this news so both forces joined to stop Brutus and Cassius. They met at Philippi on 3 Oct 42 BC. The first battle resulted in Brutus defeating Octavian but Antony defeating Cassius. Not knowing that Brutus had defeated Octavian, Cassius took his own life. At the second battle of Philippi on 23 October, Brutus was defeated and forced to flee into the hills where he committed suicide. Antony treated his body with great respect by having it wrapped his most expensive purple mantle. His body was cremated and remains sent to his mother.
Spring is almost here but winter still has a kick in it.
And in case you forgot-Daylight Savings Time began at 2 am by adding one hour to 3 am on March 12. So if you did not do so, you need to move your clock one hour ahead or you will be late for work on Monday!